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supernal

A dollar for your sword

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It was obvious to Pierre that these mushroom humanoids had stumbled upon feudalist hierarchy. Here sat the king, before him his guards and his court, and somewhere in the distance was the land over which he ruled. Where he and Luke escaped from must have been the outlying villagers, and where the three now stood could only be the heart of the mushroom kingdom; the magic mirror, he understood only in hindsight, had been the gate to keep marauders at bay.

"Magic and heat resistance aren't the same thing." Fire was too often employed as a weapon against the supernatural for this to hold true, a statement Pierre might have held Luke in contempt for had he not already arrived at the conclusion that Luke's magical talents were innate, not the result of academic study like his own.

"Heat resistance and durability aren't the same thing. You could probably throw the ring in a fireplace and it'd be fine, but an explosion might crack it, and I have no idea what that'll do. There's legions of power inside of it though, so I can guess."

Pierre watches as Luke probes the mushroom men's perimeter. Luke isn't able to get more than three lines deep before the blows to his body start threatening the integrity of his bones. What he uncovers is that the mushroom men are content to stay perfectly still unless you actually touch one of them, in which case their response is exact and punishing, too quick and too accurate to escape with any appreciable degree of frequency, and then back to stillness. When Luke returns it's with already forming bruises and a busted lip. Pierre hoped the man could still articulate any verbal components for his spells, for all their sake.

"I agree with Will. I don't mind a fight but there's only three of us, and I'm not exactly packed to the eyes with weapons. We're in their territory, and there's Gaia knows what out and about besides these guys to deal with. We have the element of surprise, let's use it."

Will laid out his plan. Pierre, nodding along with every step of it, concluded his input with: "I want to save my best stuff for Mone anyway. I'll tell you right now if we make it back up there and we need to square away with him . . . for all of his shitty chest-puffing, the guy is no joke when it comes to fucking around with magic. Keep that in mind."

The flare did not achieve its ultimate purpose but it was able to provide them all with insight. In the clear, bright light of the flare, in stark contrast to the soft glow they'd been subjected to since delving into the plumbing, they could now see that the mushroom men didn't have eyes. They could see that the mushroom king was different than the rest of them and not just because of the crown. He was the only one among them turned towards the flare, a visor-like discolored ring of photosensitive 'skin' made him aware. He flattened and then expanded, throwing a puff of spores into the air. The mushroom men directly before him straightened up and ran in a straight line towards the flare, the rest remained undisturbed.

# # #

They crowded Will now. He shot bolts at them, into them – the mushrooms didn't bother moving out of the way, so some were missing chunks of body and others looked like balding porcupines for the bolts sticking out of their body.

They didn't pummel him the way you'd expect a gang to. Even when within striking range they continued to crowd him. It wasn't until, or even if, they managed to bump up against Will that the mushroom men struck, quick and brutal. They required the contact, it seemed, to unhinge some physical mechanism which mimicked striking, some botanical equivalent since it wasn't like mushrooms had muscles.

# # #

Back at the stalagmites, Pierre and Luke followed through on the rest of the plan. Pierre gestured and chanted, shaping the wealth of mystical energy eddying about them at all times, focusing it into the shape and function molded by the parameters of this spell. He rendered himself and his equipment invisible by degrees, his grimace the last of his features to fade from sight. He waited meanwhile Luke imperfectly copied the same function (something he could never do, Pierre mused to himself) and then they split off, Luke maneuvering himself towards the king, and Pierre making a great clangor tapping two daggers together by the hilt, singing and dancing and doing his best to echo.

Edited by supernal

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Luke shifted his stance slightly, eyes focused on Will.

"No," he hissed, shaking his head. "That's reckless. Why are you so willing to fight?"  

Luke hissed his response believing it was the easier way to handle the situation even if subconsciously he knew Will was right . 

"Here's a plan. I'm going to round the crowd to the other side. I have no intention of getting close to these things, but I do intend to shoot them. These things seem the type to go for the bait." He looked to Pierre. "Whatever magic you have to stun or distract, use it as needed. If you need to go further, go ahead, but please be mindful. I know you have no reason to listen to me, so I'm asking you to have faith. Both of you. Bloodshed would end terribly for us." 

Luke agreed to Will's tactics, utilizing all of their skills would be more proficient. Luke thoughts stirred as the glowing weapon he held suddenly disputed with a soft pop-ing noise.

 I'll save the charge for a back up plan, running myself dry again after just getting back into this, I couldn't imagine.

Luke tuned himself back in to Will's voice as he'd missed the most part of what he said only refocusing around half way in.

 "Luke, Pierre," he whispered, "I have a tranq bolt. It's packed with enough sedative to knock down a horse. Is there any magic that can give us a temporary advantage? Even a split second could get us that ring and out of here."
 

Taking the bolt carefully Luke looked over at the older mage knowing that a true mages abilities lie in their refined magic. Luke had none of that, he welded swords and preferred armor over draping robes even his magic revolved around weaponry and shields. His body was stronger and more fit dancing and dodging, Pierre's spells held more value that his own. Luckily he could use his half assed magic and move.

Blue mist slowly started to gather around Luke naturally, its glow bringing back the growing dim light rising from his feet. 

"I agree with Will. I don't mind a fight but there's only three of us, and I'm not exactly packed to the eyes with weapons. We're in their territory, and there's Gaia knows what out and about besides these guys to deal with. We have the element of surprise, let's use it."

Will laid out his plan. Pierre, nodding along with every step of it, concluded his input with: "I want to save my best stuff for Mone anyway. I'll tell you right now if we make it back up there and we need to square away with him . . . for all of his shitty chest-puffing, the guy is no joke when it comes to fucking around with magic. Keep that in mind."

The wizard spoke up bringing a second vote against Luke's initial thought bringing feeling of immaturity to him. 

" I under stand, I might have been thinking with too much haste. So once the flare flies hell will break loose, so will the crowd."

He repeated half haphazardly showing he was some what fully engrossed into the conversation. Giving a small nod Luke turned back towards the looming crowd watching as the flare turned the still mass into a flaring storm.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Luke ran against the water slipping or trying his best to move threw the tides of mushroom humanoids as they passed him jaggedly some clipping him and lashing out in their wake. He ate the strikes and followed Pierre closely, the mage already being wrapped in spells and chants reminding Luke of the spell caster he couldn't see himself ever becoming. His eyes schematically tracing every gesture, his ears every chant, that came fourth from the elder mage. Blue mist rising, climbing into the air as Luke commanded placing properties on the aimless mist as fast as he could make them out from Pierre's incantation, an imperfect printing as the spell itself rounded Luke clinging to his lowered right hand only to be released in a slow pulse coaxing himself in a more translucent than transparent cloak of copied magic.

Holding the dart Will had given him in his left hand he took it with his left and headed for the King. Making a direct path for the ring crowned fungus he kept his head down as to some how attempt to not further alert the creature at his swift pace. Quickly coming up to the remainder of the assumed guards. They had formed an even closer net protecting their king and Luke cursed himself for not bringing a more suitable weapon this whole venture. 

Gaining on them Luke could see that the net, how ever close, wasn't perfect and that was all he needed. He eyes a gap a few feet wide in-between the guards, a gap produced by the ill formed net near the feet of them. He dived smoothing out into a roll as he hit the ground squeezing himself threw, the small group had only one spring into action as Luke jumped up from the kings right implanting the dart deep into its chest with his left hand with his right hand already in the cuffs of the ring turned crown and it was the one he'd touched  bringing about vengeance with a quick jab to Luke's side as the king shook jaggedly before falling still. Suddenly the kings body continued to shake a thick cloud of fungus secreting from its body sporadically . Luke knew from earlier the effects of the cloud, their kings calling. Gritting his teeth Luke silently ate the first hit, he could already feel the bruising as he had so many times in these accursed pipes holding up the creature.  

Letting go of the tranq Luke left it embedded bringing his hand up onto the creatures shoulder to hold it still as he freed the ring from its head which was no easy feat as the ring itself was bound slightly by clumps of fungus as if the creature tried melding with it.  Once freed Luke used the ring as a blunt weapon, swinging it in a half moon arc against the mushroom people closet to him. Will and Pierre had already split the focus of the mass leaving Luke more room to work with as he fought against the surrounding mushrooms swinging the ring as a newly found blunt weapon. It didn't do much damage but Luke found it very capable of knocking them down.

"THE MIRROR"

Luke totted the ring taking it in both of his hands as he again stung as he closeted around the crowd. As he ventured thinning the crowd as the ones he'd knocked down tried to get to their feet, he dreaded the sight of more of them peeling off away from Will and Pierre on a steady pace to him. Hoping that would give Will a little more room to work with he looked back at Pierre trying to catch the mages eye and with that he ran towards the mirror.

 

Edited by LukeRipstine

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He hadn't been shooting to kill. 

This wasn't an act of mercy or some attempt at heroism. Will just didn't know how to kill these things. Fuck. 

They approached with deliberate motions, every action exact and poised to harm him. Any bolt that found its way into mushroom flesh simply stuck there. If he was lucky, he'd slow down the victim's movement. If he was unlucky, he just tore a chunk of flesh out and the target moved unabated. No pain. No caution. Just shameless violent intent. Fuck.

It'd quickly become apparent that if Will wanted to survive this, he'd need to keep his eyes on them before they got too close. He was already battered. Too many strikes would shatter what was left. Something grazed his left arm and his heart leapt out of its chest. Whirling, he backpedaled aggressively, boots nearly sliding on the slick cave floor. Fuck. 

The air whooshed before him as the mushroom swung fiercely at the spot that Will had just occupied. He gasped and unloaded a bolt point blank into the thing's chest. It staggered back, but continued toward him and, instinctively, Will brought up a leg and thrust his boot into the creature to shove it back. Foolish. Stupid. He was an idiot. On impact the creature clamped its limbs toward his foot. Will shouted in pain as the pressure threatened to break his leg. Behind his attacker more creatures were approaching. They were going to surround him. Fuck. 

His free leg slipped and he fell crashing to the ground while the beast held his other one. Panting and cursing, Will used the free foot and swept it at the mushroom's leg, bringing it down as well. He screamed as it stretched his leg at a wrong angle and almost wrenched it out of its socket.  He needed to get free now. Around them, other mushrooms wandered past as if they couldn't even see him in this vulnerable state. It was odd, but he thanked the gods anyway.

Gritting his teeth, Will half rose with his core and viciously slammed his crossbow into the mushroom limbs holding onto him. Up and down. Over and over. Chunks flew left and right until finally there was nothing left for the creature to hold him with and he was free It was still alive however, and keen on striking him with its head even though the angle was off. Grunting, Will fully rose and stumbled away, careful to not touch the other creatures that stomped nearby. He loaded another bolt into the crossbow and fired it into the crowd haphazardly. Whether or not it hit anyone was moot. He needed them focused on him. 

Movement. 

A change in the tide.

Luke. Pierre. 

The approaching masses suddenly lessened in pressure as their numbers dwindled. Some of them were splitting off. Had he failed? Were they headed toward the others? 

"The MIRROR!" a voice boomed through the cave, echoing off the walls and toward Will. He flinched at the sound, but understood the command. They needed to escape, and the other two couldn't do it without the gem he still held. He worked his way through the crowd and toward the cave wall. No touching. He'd learned his lesson. When he reached the wall, he turned to see them still pressing forward.

"I'm sorry," Will whispered to the mushrooms still heading toward him, "it looks like we're cutting this short..." He backed up slowly, casting his gaze left and right. S could they not see where he was? I think it's contact. They're strategy relies on swarming an area until they make contact. If I'm careful, I can escape. 

And so he endeavored to do just that. Hugging the wall toward the mirror and sprinting, well limping , as quickly as he could. The gate swung into view and he poured in more speed, dashing through it with little hesitation. He had only a few bolts left. Once across, Will put in another bolt and trained the crossbow on the mirror. If the next one through wasn't someone he recognized, he'd shoot - fast

 

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Pierre didn't realize it right away, but it didn't take him long to arrive at the conclusion that the king was calling the shots. So long as he took careful pains to avoid contact with any of the milling mushroom peasants, the king had no chance in the Lower Dimensions of targeting him.

He considered, briefly, casting a spell to fricassee the bastard from here, but carrying that consideration further to the notion the king might release some kind of death-rattle chemical that would send all and sundry into a tizzy, Pierre threw the idea away nearly the moment it came to mind. He focused instead on his retreat – specifically the Will-shaped portion of it that had the return crystal, so where Will went, Pierre followed. If Luke expired on their way out then that was just one more body, one more tally to account for when taking his pound of flesh from Mone.

"The mirror!"

Luke had the ring, and he was on the move, but he was no longer translucent. The outline of his humanoid body was stark, as he was dusted by a thick coating of the mushroom king's spores, and would be an eternal target for the mushroom people who, called to attention by the king's edict, turned their attention in full to Luke.

As they retreated Pierre cast two spells in quick conjunction, the one with his left hand granting Luke a boost to his speed equivalent to a Haste, and the one with his right issuing a volley of force-missiles to beat back the first wave of mushroom people before turning about-face and committing to the escape.

Out of the cavern. Down the snake's spine, stumbling, breaking off a few of the tines, hitting the wet floor with a thud and a gasp and stumbling to his feet. The mirror ahead – closing his eyes, and leaping through it, crashing bodily into a William he didn't see but surely felt.

"Let's go! Let's go!"

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Luke watched as the two beat him to the mirror knowing they would make it.  Coughing small clouds of green smoke Luke could feel the creatures intensity their leaders orders written all over Luke screaming 'Catch him'. The crowds behind him merged into a mass coming to form. Ahead of him before stepping threw the mirror Luke watched as Pierre cast two spells. One slung a volley of  missile flying into the crowd behind him. The next empowered Luke with greater speed, his body feeling light mixing to mix well with his urge to flee as most of the crowd behind him was reduced with the ones surviving tripping hastily over the fallen. 

Luke ran full force, having been able to outrun the creatures slightly before, now he was able to completely outpace them in swift strides embedded with magic catching up to to the mirror with ease almost throwing himself threw. On crossing the first thing Luke noticed was the two, Will and Pierre, fast down the hall way. Luke's initial plan was to use his abilities to block the mirror so they couldn't come threw but as he looked at the two he hastely decided to join them, the wisps of speed magic weakening around him only to finally come to a release as he closed the distance between them. 

Far behind them the mushrooms began to flood out of the mirror, their progress only being slowed to the lack of cooperation them trying to fit all of themselves threw the mirror at once. Still more and more poured out now far  behind them.

Luke slipped the ring threw his arm holding it firmly underneath his arm as he jogged,

"Let's get the actual fuck out of here!"

Luke strove on their heels glancing back at the trickling mass.

"We can out run them. Will do you remember where we left the string? Or the stone?"

Luke had assumed he'd lost one or both of their methods of getting back, hopefully he was wrong.

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It was Pierre first, zooming out of the mirror and past Will. The fact that Will didn't shoot him down was more luck than anything. Lucky for him. 

Next, Luke dove through. Behind him was an onslaught of the creatures. Shit. As Pierre and Luke carried on their motion and ran down the dark pipe, Will shot one mushroom man in the face and whirled around, pouring on speed to catch up with his companions. His leg pulsed with pain but he recognized the urgency of the situation. Pain was fine. In fact, pain was a great incentive to keep himself far away from their pursuers. There was a thunderous noise every so often. Eventually, Will realized it was the sound of the mushrooms brushing up against the pipe walls, then striking the pipe ferociously automatically. Don't let it be you. 

He didn't know how long they'd run. He didn't even know if the mushrooms would stop chasing past the border, or make an exception due to the precious cargo. He did know, however, that they were no longer running in the dark. At some point they'd made a turn into a tunnel with fungi clinging to the walls, glowing bright.

"Here," Will panted. "We'll use it here."

Luke had asked about the rope, and Will answered his question now: "That rope was more useful for rappelling down obstacles. Using it to lead us back would have been a hassle." He paused, then rubbed his face. "Besides, the tentacle thing kind of destroyed it. The gem that Mone gave us is our last resort."

He reached into his pocket, fingers rapping around the sleek surface and sharp edges of their ticket out. He brought it out for them to see. Crush it, huh?  Narrowing his eyes, Will knocked the gem against the pipe wall to gauge how much force he would need. The sound resonated through the tunnel and he flinched, unsure of whether the mushrooms would hear him. 

Still, his test was satisfactory. Not too much pressure. "I'm guessing we hold hands...?" he asked aloud, looking at Pierre first, then Luke. Somewhere, the sound of mass hitting the pipe walls resounded loudly. Too loudly. No time. 

Will set the gem on the ground and seized both men by their shoulders. "I don't have the energy for a grand speech," he said with a dry grin. "Still, this is our conclusion...hopefully. Luke, we made it out alive. Gods know we shouldn't have, but we did. Pierre, you lost some of your people and I'm sorry. However you dole out justice, I'll likely support...within reason."

A deep breath. His eyes shut and his mind faded to the past for a heartbeat. He traveled to their first moments in these damned pipes. Finally over. Just before he lifted his good leg to crush the gem, a face flashed in his mind. Kaori... 

But by then it was too late. His boot crashed down, met the edge of the crystal, and traveled relentlessly downward. 

No smoke this time. No fanfare, no grand presentation. Just a flash of blinding light, a feeling of expansion and cleaner air forcing its way down his lungs. Will opened his eyes to find himself in Mone's cellar. Luke and Pierre stood next to him. Where was Mone?

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Pierre panted through what Will had to say, regained his breath by the end of it. Not that long ago . . . how long had it been? Not that long ago, running that distance would have been an unreasonable ask. All the time down in the plumbing beneath that bastard mage's lab had fashioned him into a new man. He knew better than ever how to hide, and run, and fight, because the opposite pole of these choices was always the same, was always death. And, well, he was still alive. He planned to keep it that way, whatever the cost.

"Yeah okay. Fine." Pierre grabbed at Will's hand. "As soon as you can tell me what exactly counts as reason, I'll worry about whether you're helping me out or not. Me? I have a Mone-mind now. I think it's perfectly reasonable to send person after person to their death so long as I get mine. If you don't have Mone-mind, then you should get out of the way of those of us who do."

Pierre showed no interest in the gem or in the ring. His furrowed brow was a signal only of his extreme concentration on the next few minutes of his life.

"He's not a pushover, by the way."

Bright light robbed them of their sense of sight, and with it came a drone that surrounded them as if a thunderstorm. The ground fell away from their feet, then returned, and around them now was Mone's lab. Two shadows separated themselves from their dimly lit surroundings and approached – a hollow suit of armor and Mone himself. But Mone changed, as well. Identical to the uneducated eye, a short reptilian wizard with a hunchback and nervous hands, but now they knew better. Now they knew his aspirations, and his capabilities. Were those hands fidgeting or were they casting a spell?

"You have it? Give it to me. Give it to me!"

Edited by supernal

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"Here," Will panted. "We'll use it here."

Luke nodded giving preparing himself for the teleport. They had been running away from the crowd of mushroom people for a while now but Luke was happy they still had the damn thing. It was a miracle really with the amount they'd been tossed around. 

Pierre mumbled something about Mone in his mind but Luke didn't pay attention. They were seconds away from completing their mission and getting the hell out of there, they'd get a good grade as it could only have been a day or two. He tried to focus on just that, he didn't care about the misdeeds that Mone had either done or suspected to be done knowing that Peirre would do enough. He planned on handing over the ring and leaving, the magic world was too close to dark arts to be properly judged at times and defining that line wasn't what he'd come here for.

Silently bracing himself he watched as Will crushed the stone seamlessly bringing them into Mone's lad with a flash of blinding light. Luke brought his left arm up to cover his eyes for a second, he could hear Mone's voice call out to them. He seemed as if he was in distress as Luke slowly uncovered his eyes allowing them to adjust to the light.

"You have it? Give it to me. Give it to me!"

The light waded fiercely reviling the humanoid mage hunched over behind two almost towering metal knights. Luke's initial thought was to give over the ring in the first place but the lizards nervousness arose more suspicion within Luke. Suddenly he gripped the ring more tightly.

"No problem. Just give us our reward and show us the door."

Luke glared at the wizard trying strengthen his own resolve as blue mist slowly spreading over the three, just in case.

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It was strange how one's mind and body could operate on separate objectives. Strange how, where one's thoughts lean a certain way, their body goes the other. Strange how, while Will had intended to be a mediator, his hands slowly found his loaded crossbow and trained it on the wizard's head. Eyes wide and voice unyielding, Will growled fiercely at their duplicitous employer. Images flashed in his mind once again. Nearly drowning ...The dead man at the bottom of the webs. 

He inched closer, baring his teeth to keep his mouth shut. He needed to reel himself in. Regain control. He knew this, but the release from the pipes threatened to shatter his civility. Sinuous bands of flesh, stretching toward him. Toward Luke. 

Will blinked. He clenched his jaw and flashed a glance at the suit of armor. Kaori. A force of nature. An addled mind but...she'd been good. Gone, now. 

What was his plan? Fury coursed through him, a tidal wave surging through the pipes of his veins. He lowered his head and shook it, cursing. All of this for a ring. It wasn't right. He looked up abruptly. Everything washed away. Reset. Luke, dead now. Except, not. But certainly not the same. None of them could be. 

His face was stone. Arms leaden and falling low as a result. Sighing, Will forced a dry chuckle and nodded. "Questions first. Money after. Then you get your ring."

He turned to his troupe, asking as he moved: "Mone, how many people did you send down those pipes. How long did you wait before writing them off as dead and tossing in another adventurer to get a bit further?

"Adventurers," Will continued , "are people. We aren't expendable. We risk our lives for worthy causes, not pointless ones, on the hope that the end result will outweigh the danger." He stopped pacing around the cellar and shook his head.  "So, tell me. Is the ring worth it? What is it? What were those... things in your pipes? A tentacle monster. A colony of very angry mushrooms. My guess is they were a consequence of wandering Tower Quarter's drainage system, but people were only wandering down there on your whim. They died for you. Why."

And on the last word, Will looked up and stared at the wizard. It wasn't a question. It was a demand. A demand for Mone to justify the deaths, as if anything he said would actually quell Pierre's grief or Will's frustration. 

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One of the remarkable things is that Mone seemed to pay no mind to Pierre at all. One would think Mone might take special pains to recognize those he betrayed by leaving for dead, but seeing that the opposite was true only managed to underscore the wizard's pathology. What Pierre called 'Mone-mind'. Mone had eyes only for the ring and all it represented, how many of them there were, their faces, their hurt motivations, all of that was background noise and Mone had mastered the art of tuning that out ages ago.

"The gold! Yes of course your reward. How silly of me."

He went to a cabinet, his suit of armor stayed behind. He returned quickly with a few satchels. They were already tied. Already labeled with amounts, each one reading 100, as discussed, but there were more bags than there were people. Mone hadn't even countered. He just grabbed a handful and tossed it at them, the bags hitting the ground with the clank of metal.

"Fine. There you are. Paid in full. Now, as for my property."

He advanced on Luke. Pierre managed an incredible amount of restraint for all his bluster, but only because what he wanted was vengeance, not melodrama. No shouting matches, no sudden revelations. Just a cold blade, twisted slow and cruel into Mone's heart.

"Questions? What questions?" After Will had already asked him. A faraway look in the mage's eyes as he called up the perfect record his senses took of the last few seconds, worked through his memory as if a film reel, then returned, the distance in his eyes replaced with mild frustration.

"See here young man, if you would like me to show you the ways of the world then I suggest you sign up for a lecture or private tutoring. I'm not cheap. You are a laborer. I am a man of knowledge. That is why you have those big, gawky muscles and that pitiful little sword and smell of shit. Because you are paid to be and to do those things, by men and women like myself. Don't you have insurance or something? Can't you bother them with all of your question? Now please, if you would be so kind sir, fulfill your obligation and return to me my property."

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"The gold! Yes of course your reward. How silly of me."

 

Luke waded into thought watching carefully threw the corner of his eye as Will had trained his cross bow onto the lizard, at that moment he grazed over how the encounter would go if Mone was killed by Will and Pierre in their rage and spite. He'd just take his coin and leave, he had known them both for a short time in the pipes and neither was worth getting blood on his hands unnecessarily more importantly their grade would surely fall with Mone. It was almost somewhat of a relief when Will eventually lowered his crossbow not that Mone seemed to be paying any attention to Will in the first place, he'd seemed so focused on getting the ring from Luke that even Luke wondered what was so important about this artifact he held tightly in his palm. he simply walked away to fetch their gold.

"Questions first. Money after. Then you get your ring.", "Adventurers," Will continued , "are people. We aren't expendable. We risk our lives for worthy causes, not pointless ones, on the hope that the end result will outweigh the danger." He stopped pacing around the cellar and shook his head.  "So, tell me. Is the ring worth it? What is it? What were those... things in your pipes? A tentacle monster. A colony of very angry mushrooms. My guess is they were a consequence of wandering Tower Quarter's drainage system, but people were only wandering down there on your whim. They died for you. Why."

"I know how you feel"  Luke looked over at Will  to see his focus still lay on the lizard as he reentered " But we didn't come here for that."

Luke let the room settle as Mone returned with the coin and after managing to throw it at them Mone surprisingly spoke a rebuttal to Will's questions.

"See here young man, if you would like me to show you the ways of the world then I suggest you sign up for a lecture or private tutoring. I'm not cheap. You are a laborer."

Luke already knew where the conversation was headed, he had been distant from the magic enthralled world for a long time but he'd never forget what type of mages drowned themselves in deep rooted pride putting themselves above the lot but, he wasn't wrong as they had signed up for it. In lawful view the only thing they could prove was their accomplished mission and the falsities about the mission difficulty even though they could still out him under investigation it would be hard to prove much. Mean while Luke ached for a shower, his hate ran thin and his care bore little fruit as he leaned down and collected the bags of gold.

"That is why you have those big, gawky muscles and that pitiful little sword and smell of shit. Because you are paid to be and to do those things, by men and women like myself. Don't you have insurance or something? Can't you bother them with all of your question? Now please, if you would be so kind sir, fulfill your obligation and return to me my property.

Mone finished just as Luke picked up the last of the bags of gold cradling them in his left arm. With a light sigh Luke had no intention of fighting or more conflict he wasn't fully content on letting Mone be completely unbothered. This just proved the intensity from the others was infectious. Pocketing the ring he began to speak,

"Cheap? Looking at you I could have sworn you're as knowledgeably and as expensive as a piece of tattered cloth. Don't know about you *looks at Will* but definitely wasn't worth risking my life. Besides the illegal experiments I'll be informing the adventures clinic about the misdeeds and vague information on the quest.  Along with our eye witness here *luke grazes over Pierre* expect a through search of this place, permit checking, and the set of fines that come with it. Lying on a quest document is quite a illegal thing to do, this wasn't a simple retrieval mission. Professor Cutler will contact you soon, hopefully."

Luke looked up at the wizard before taking a step back and turning his attention to the other two. 

"Lets go guys, there are different ways to handle this and I would much rather some rest right now. Wouldn't yall agree? I would hand over the ring but I'm sure it would cause Pierre here some unnecessary distress. "

Narrowing his eyes the edge in his voice was subtle but meaningful, 

If necessary we don't have to get out hands dirtier in all of this, lets leave it.

Edited by LukeRipstine

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Will sighed. "I gave you your chance. Without answers, you're not getting this ring." He wanted an explanation, but had already known that any story given would fall short of enough. This was fine. 

He was grateful to see Luke pocket the ring. It seemed they were all aligned on this and, while Pierre was being silent, Will was confident they could take the wizard with a bit of effort. Now what? In Will's head he could envision countless mad dashes for the stairs. Most ended in a metal fist slamming into Will's face, ending the escape permanently. Some had Will and the others under the duress of some complicated magic. Regardless, their success rate was low. He rubbed his face and watched Luke pick up a pouch of gold. The wizard had seen this too.  

"If I don't get the ring, you don't get the gold," Mone replied calmly. His armored suit creaked and moved to block the stairs. Will watched it carefully, frowning at its motion. The movement was clearly driven by magic, but still mechanically limited. "I want it. So give it." 

Was Will thinking clearly? An idea formed in his head. If they could get rid of the armor, Mone could absolutely use more magic to make their lives miserable. Could he count on Pierre to counter that? The goal wasn't to kill the wizard. It was to get out of here with the ring. And gold, preferably. 

He didn't give his troupe a warning. Couldn't afford do. After a sharp breath, Will raised his crossbow and pointed it at Mone. "You're a child," he said softly. 

In a fluid motion he swiveled and trained the crossbow on the armored suit. Specifically it's knee. Without joints, the thing would be immobilized, as a suit of armor should be. Will pulled the trigger and immediately tore after the bolt that shot forth.  

Pffthunk! 

It sank into the metal, obstructing rotation and locking the suit where it stood. As Will ran he pulled out another bolt and secured it in the crossbow. A breath later, he mercilessly fired again. This time the left knee joint was impaled and, while the suit didn't seem to react, as Will got closer it failed to advance toward him. He sidestepped as it tried and failed, its legs moving stiffly. It didn't take long for them to get caught on each other. It took even less time for the whole suit to crash against the ground, armored hands desperately clawing toward his boots but failing to gain purchase on the cellar floor. 

"MOVE!" he boomed at Luke and Pierre, before moving to ascend. He wasn't a match for the wizard's magic. Escape was the priority. Get into the daylight, then toward the pavilion to talk to the professor. This assignment was a mess, but if they made it out alive surely they'd pass. Who cares, MOVE. 

He almost ran face first into a stone wall. His hands slapped against it futilely. Rage filled him to the brim. "Fuck!" Will spat. 

He turned to face Mone. "You're not getting this damn ring. Not without telling us why you need it." 

Edited by ticklefarte
supernal doesn't want us to be free :(

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Mone wasn't sure who this 'Pierre' fellow was. He followed Luke's gaze to the robed man but no light of recognition glinted in the wizard's eye. What he understood, though, was that there was one among their number who knew that the ring meant something, and that parting with it was not a course of action they wanted to take.

And yet, Luke was cradling bags of gold.

"If I don't get the ring, you don't get the gold. My time is far too valuable to waste on this nonsense. Is it that you want more gold? Fine. Go into the cabinet there and help yourselves to whatever I've got left, but you'll be giving me that ring first. You'll be giving it to me, or I'll be taking it from you."

His golemized suit of armor creaked closer to add more of an imposing air to the challenge issued by the diminutive lizard-mage. Just when Mone was wondering if these adventurers were dense or if there was a language barrier, Will sprang into action, loosing crossbow bolts at his suit of armor.

Mone disengaged, running back. He seemed to be retreating for his life . . . but he was thinking a step ahead. He wasn't going to where the ball was but where it was going to be – why attack his guard if not to escape, and what was the only avenue for escape?

Mone pressed his hand to the nearest wall. The staircase contracted into a pucker and then winked out of sight[1]. When Mone turned back to the three of them they could see, by the light of his electric torches, that his skin had adopted a curious texture[2].

"This is it!" Pierre called out, reaching into his spell satchel and pinching a tuft of bear fur. It burned in his fingers even as he took it out, acrid smoke belting into the air. Will and Luke could feel the strength of their bodies returned, even multiplied[3]. Just as Mone held a hand out to Will, a skeletal hand peeling itself away from his body and reaching out to grab Will's face.

 


1: Stone Shape, to close the staircase leading up.

2: Stone Skin, for melee defense.

3: Mass Bear's Strength.

4: Remote shocking grasp.

Edited by supernal

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Luke watched carefully, the blue mist rising to the occasion as he opened his arms letting the gold bags drop onto the floor. 

Well if I take them now it'll look like we robbed the poor man.

"You're a child,"

Luke watched Will snap to his bow in a smooth motion and knew that just escaping was suddenly much harder. Almost as hard as the first suit of armor hit the ground.

"MOVE!"

 He glared up at the wizard as Will commanded them to move, the mist at his feet moved in mass spiraling that rose below his waist. Even Pierre broke out of his silence while behind the armors Mone closed the stairwell leaving them in an even tighter spot. Suddenly he felt empowered, the mages boost running threw him though it was weakened slightly. Impossible to tell with quicker magics Luke's body held a sort of dampening effect with lingering magic. Still he pressed having almost all this charges back at four and one person to unleash them upon. 

"This is it!" 

Pierre called out reaching into his satchel and doing what Luke thought, some sort of ritual.

Luke prepared himself along side them, the mist growing and washing the floor.

We can still get out of this, its as simple as take out the golems and open a path.

Luke reassured himself, he didn't want to fight but what little that had to be done he would defend and help. The mist continued to stretch out fast and as Luke reached out his left arm with his palm facing down the mist reached rising in a spiraling column wrapping around his hand in a blanket of galaxy and blue.  Bringing his hand down diagonally shook off loose mist from a clear crystal like sword, it was tempered blue from the seemingly impossibly sharp tip down to its circle guard. Holding the slightly extended hilt Luke exhales watching the fight unfold eyeing as Mone shoots a skeleton like hand flying straight for Will.

It only took one push to send Luke sailing towards Will just barely being able to slash the skeletal hand. As the two collided the sword fumed and smoked with a crackle of energy. 

That title is old  but it still works uh? "The anti magic swordsman" 

Luke pivoted backward bringing his sword across horizontally sending a burst of mist flying towards Mone. The mist wouldn't do anything Luke probed for a response, If it was left Luke could use it for a spell and if countered  Luke hoped it would open up an opportunity for the others. Regardless Lukes magic always responded viciously when out up against other mages letting him have a soft of advantage in blocking and attacking magic.

"Will I got your cover. If we can get him away from where the entrance is I can try to blow it open and shield us from it we just need to get him to move."

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Death reached desperately for him. It shot out fast. yearning to close the distance between them. 

Will blinked and suddenly the skeletal hand was gone. He blinked again and Luke was there, speaking to him. Gods what was that? And why was he feeling so...lively? 

His limbs were limber. Lungs full of life. His head no longer hurt and he found that, while the wounds he'd gotten in the pipes were still present, their aching was a vague memory. Present, but in the background. That made sense. In the foreground, there were more pressing problems. 

"Understood," Will gasped, still shocked from the boost. 

He felt for his quiver, eyeing Mone as he dispelled Luke's magic smoke. The wizard was fast, clearly a master of his field. Will grit his teeth and swept his gaze toward Pierre. Was it you? Did you make me stronger? It was a gut feeling, but Will gave the mage a nod and advanced toward Mone. He had five bolts left. None of them were enhanced, and the crossbow was certainly not strong enough to pierce the stone that coated Mone's skin right now.  What to do, then? 

Could he do it? This strength was unreal. He could feel it as a comforting heat, eager to be used. Could he generate more force than his crossbow? Enough to crack rock? I'm still human. He's a wizard. Getting close could hurt. 

But they needed him to move. Luke had said so. It took some time to build up the nerve, but in a flash Will threw down the crossbow and seized two quarrels from his quiver. He wielded with a tight grip and sprinted toward the wizard just as the cellar began to shake with magic. 

Mone saw him. Will knew he did. Was this in response?

Hail? Gods, why?

A cloud coalesced near the ceiling, large and ominous. As Will charged Mone, sleet fired out and pelted him fiercely. His legs carried him quickly, but the ice hit harder and harder, building up strength like a real storm would. He cursed as one him in the head, blood pouring out of the gash and blurring his vision. He kept moving. The distance was getting smaller. 

Will was faster than ever. He moved like a force of nature in his own right, wild and unrelenting in his pursuit. With each footfall, he poured everything he had into lengthening his stride. Everything he had into getting closer. He was getting warmer. The strength was hot now, his body aflame. What had Pierre done to him? He just barely caught hint of a new source of light.

Fuck, move! 

Out of instinct, Will slid to the side as he realized that he was preceding a wilder kind of magic than a power increase. The flames unfurled from Pierre, curling and licking like amber tongues at the cellar floor. The sleet melted immediately, turning into rain upon entry due to the drastic temperature change. Will skidded across the stone floor, stopping once he found purchase. He turned to look at the attack. Luke...could he survive the flames? 

Could Mone? 

Banking on the wizard having a counter, Will launched himself after the column of flames, hoping to surprise Mone with a secondary attack. 

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